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The Gemstone of Service
By Katie McKy
The federal government’s facets offer myriad ways to serve.
Think of the federal government as a gemstone: the brilliant, shining core of our country. Its myriad facets are the departments, commissions, agencies and administrations - along with the military - that comprise our government.
So many facets mean so many choices. However, whatever you choose, working for the federal government is both a profession and a patriotic act.
Ask the professionals featured here whose choice of a government career have yielded the shine of success and a bright future. They encourage other young professionals at the start of their career journey to consider joining them in the work of the various facets of the country’s government.
Varlack Manages USDA’s Budget & Financial Functions
Nakisha L. Varlack, branch chief, budget and financial operations at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), provides leadership and direction to ensure the execution of budget and financial management services for programs that support U.S. agriculture.
It’s considerable responsibility, but Varlack gladly shoulders it.
“As a senior leader within USDA, I love that my position places me at the forefront of the organization to not just focus on high performance and productivity, but to also focus on ensuring that USDA continues to foster an inclusive working environment for its employees, customers and stakeholders,” she says.
To rise high, however, Varlack had to overcome challenges by leveraging poise, pluck, tack, tenacity and patience.
“I first served the federal government in the U.S. Air Force as a 22-year old supervisor responsible for managing a large, diverse staff. This experience was initially intimidating due to the fact that my entire staff consisted of individuals that were older and more experienced in the field,” she recalls.
“My ultimate success in that position came from immersing myself into learning every facet of the job, from the employee level up. I worked alongside each of my staff for two months, and this experience gave me an opportunity to establish a welcoming working relationship, while breaking down any barriers derived from cultural differences in our attitudes, beliefs and perceptions.”
As Varlack expanded to fill her role in the U.S. Air Force, she had to expand further in the expansive USDA.
“Prior to joining USDA, it was my understanding that USDA’s primary focus was on ensuring that the food we consume is safe and healthy. It was surprising to learn that USDA has 17 individual agencies that carry out a vast array of very important services and initiatives,” Varlack shares.
For example, she cites, the USDA’s rural development mission area is committed to providing federal assistance to those living in rural communities as an effort to improve quality of life. “We also have a Foreign Agriculture Service that provides crucial resources to economies around the globe,” she adds.
The USDA is now made up of 29 agencies and offices with nearly 100,000 employees working at more than 4,500 locations across the country and abroad. Its gargantuan scale is good news for job seekers. “The wide range of the services provided by our agencies enables USDA to offer career opportunities in many different fields,” underscores Varlack.
Seeking employment often isn’t easy, so channel her tenacity. “The best advice that I’ve received was to not get discouraged with job search rejections,” she reveals.
“As each door of opportunity closes, there’s a greater opportunity waiting behind another door. I’ve learned early in my career to turn the disappointments of rejection into blessings by using each experience as a tool to self-evaluate and improve in the area of writing my resume or sharpening my interview skills.”
Just as Varlack values diverse ideas, so you should, too. “As both a public servant and entrepreneur, I have a well-traveled background of working in the U.S. and abroad. My experience has taught me to always utilize diversity of thought. Whether I’m managing a team at work or my company, I value the diverse perspectives of those who are under my leadership.”
She further encourages job seekers to push themselves to perpetually proceed.
“Employees should continue to invest in their development in order to grow within their careers. Practicing a lifestyle of continuous learning will keep you abreast of changes in the workplace and society,” she concludes.
Use usda.gov/our-agency/careers for USDA career paths. Connect on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Flickr and Google+.
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